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Diplomatic Storm Brews as Somali President Rejects Ethiopia-Somaliland Naval Base Deal

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In a symbolic move that further intensified regional tensions, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed a law on Saturday nullifying the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the Government of Ethiopia and Somaliland. The MOU, announced on January 1st, includes plans for Somaliland to lease a 20-km stretch of its coastline to Ethiopia for the establishment of a naval base, along with indications of potential recognition of Somaliland’s independence by Ethiopia.

Somaliland

The contested agreement has triggered a diplomatic row, with Somalia recalling its ambassador from Ethiopia and describing the deal as an act of “aggression.” Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi’s assertion that Ethiopia would soon recognize Somaliland’s independence adds to the complexity of the situation.

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The bone of contention lies in Somaliland’s longstanding challenge to the legally binding character of the state union that was intended to form a unified country after Somalia and Somaliland gained independence from Italy and Britain, respectively.

Ethiopia, which lost its access to the sea when Eritrea seceded in 1993, has been relying on the port in neighboring Djibouti for the majority of its imports and exports. The move to establish a naval base in Somaliland is seen as a strategic effort by Ethiopia to regain sea access and bolster its maritime capabilities.

Diplomatic Storm Brews as Somali President Rejects Ethiopia-Somaliland Naval Base Deal

The African Union (AU) has called for immediate negotiations between Ethiopia and Somalia to resolve their differences, with the AU chairperson emphasizing the importance of a peaceful resolution. The situation remains tense as regional dynamics continue to evolve in the wake of this controversial deal.

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